Strep throat is a bacterial infection that causes pain and swelling in the throat. This condition, caused by the Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria, can affect people of all ages, but it is especially prevalent in children between five and 15. The contagious condition is easily spread through any bodily contact. Typically, sneezing and coughing are the primary methods of transferring this organism between hosts. The symptoms of strep throat can vary in severity.


A fever generally means the body is fighting an illness or infection. A person with strep throat will generally develop a temperature of above 101 degrees Fahrenheit which will last at least 48 hours. During this time, over-the-counter pain relief medications can help lower the fever, but the individual should see a doctor as well, to begin treatment for the infection. Cold compresses may also help lower the fever. Parents should be cautious about administering OTC medications to their feverish children because mixing OTC pain medications with influenza and strep throat can result in a deadly reaction called Reye’s syndrome.



Chills are a symptom of strep throat directly related to the fever -- high body temperature can create chills that run through the body. Keeping warm, with pajamas and plenty of blankets, is necessary, especially for children. Alternating between fever and chills is a sign the body is fighting off the illness.


A Sore Throat

People with strep throat often develop a sore throat quite suddenly, usually overnight. Though sore throats are not exclusively related to strep, when caused by this infection they are often extremely painful. Because strep throat is highly contagious and has a longer incubation period, it is important to rule out or identify and begin treatment for strep at the earliest symptoms.


A Headache

A severe headache is one of the more well-known signs of strep throat in both adults and children. The bacteria associated with strep throat can spread quickly to other areas of the body, causing further illness and more pain. Other affected areas can include the tonsils, sinuses, and skin. Some people develop blood-related illnesses or infections of the inner ear. All of these can result in a headache. Over-the-counter pain medications can usually alleviate this symptom.


Difficulty Swallowing

Inflammation of the throat leads to difficulty swallowing not only food but liquids and even saliva. Throat lozenges or cough drops can provide relief and help with the pain and discomfort. Gargling with warm salt water is another temporary relief from a sore throat that can make swallowing easier temporarily. It is important to keep the body nourished so it can fight off the infection, so people with strep throat who find swallowing difficult should choose liquids such as soup and juice, or soft foods like jello.


Loss of Appetite

Another common symptom of strep throat is a loss of appetite, often due to the pain that eating causes. Failing to consume sufficient nutrients may not only prolong the illness because the body cannot properly fend off the infection, but it can also leave individuals feeling achy and lethargic.


Swollen Lymph Nodes

Lymph nodes that are swollen and tender are one of the primary symptoms of strep throat. When a doctor is trying to diagnose the condition, feeling the lymph nodes at the throat will be one of the first steps. Even after strep throat has been diagnosed and the patient begins taking antibiotics, it may take some time for symptoms like swollen lymph nodes to begin improving, often as long as 48 hours.



A red rash that appears in small patches is another symptom of strep throat; it is caused by the movement through the body of the Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria. Though most people will assume this symptom is due to irritants such as new detergent or chemicals, if it is present in conjunction with other symptoms of strep, it is best to see a doctor for a strep test.


Problems Breathing

Shortness of breath or labored breathing can signify strep throat, and the condition can also lead to more severe respiratory and inflammatory diseases and illnesses such as scarlet fever, inflammations of the kidneys, and rheumatic fever, which can also affect the joints, heart, skin, and nervous system. There is also a link between strep throat and pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder; the former can worsen the symptoms of the latter.



Coughing is another noticeable symptom of strep throat, and it is one of the most significant ways hosts spread the infection. The bacteria that causes strep throat is highly contagious and can easily spread through the air. A person who has coughed into their hand, who then touches a door handle or other public surface, can also facilitate the transfer of the bacteria.


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